I love that the Vidalia recreation fields are diagonal from my house. I love that you can hear numerous ballgames going on at once. I love that we can look out our kitchen window and see friends playing tennis. I love that the concession stands are right there and I can walk Jonah over for a sucker in the middle of the afternoon. I love that we can leave our house, go to every baseball field and see over 100 church members. I love that kids see Dan while they are out on the field and then the stick their chest out a little bit more and keep looking out of the corner of their eye to see if he is watching them. Then, I love when they run over and say "Hey Brother Dan! Did you see me out there?" I love that everyone there lets Jonah hold their gloves and bats. I love that we can meet visitors to our church on "their turf." I love that even though I don't like baseball all that much, that I can be at those fields and feel so at home.
I love that I live on OAK STREET. I love that all the houses have huge oak trees in the yards. I love how those trees line our street. I love that when Jonah learned the word "tree," he could get lots of practice saying "CHEE" as we took walks around this neighborhood. He would point and say "chee, chee, chee, chee" as we passed each oak tree. I love the oaks!
I love those two swings hanging from our Oak tree. I love that the Mraz's sent Jonah his little baby swing and it fit perfectly next to ours. I love that we live on the corner and people always stop to visit when we are on our swings. I love that people stop their car and get out to push Jonah in his swing. I love that we have had some deep conversations with dear friends on that big swing. I love that I sat on that swing one day and told God that I was okay if I never had a baby because He was all I needed. I love that my neighbors walk over to sit with us when they see us out there. I love that my little boy does "tricks" in the yard for anyone who will sit in that swing to watch. I love that during ball season, we can sit there and hold up a non-stop wave to all the people that drive by. I love that you can hear the ones we don't know say "Isn't that the preacher from TV?" I love that someone created OFF so that can endure the mosquitoes when we are out there!
I love that we can walk a few doors down Oak street and be at the houses of two of our favorite families. I love that the Merritt's and the Welch's live down the street from us. I love that when we found out we were pregnant with Jonah that we went to their houses, sneaked into their bedrooms and bathrooms (in order to not tell their kids yet!) with them and showed them our NINE pregnancy tests. I love that they screamed, laughed and cried with us. I love that when Jonah passes their house with us, that he never ends up coming home with us. He ends up hanging with them for a while. I love that when he walks in their houses, that he knows exactly where HIS stash of toys is. I love that he always watches the THE GRINCH at Tim and Belinda's. I love that immediately moves magnets on Cliff and Debra's fridge then wants to see her rubber duck collection. I love that they are church members but more like family. I love that when they pass our house at night and realize Dan isn't home that they check on us. I love that they invite us down for dinner when they have extra. I love that they watch out for us. I love that they are next door neighbors to each other and Jonah goes from house to house as if he owns both of them. I love that he has names for them (Cwiff, Beppa, MeMaw, B) that everyone else now calls them.
I love that front door at the Merritt's house. Many of you may not know this but we used to live in that house. We bought it when we moved here, totally renovated it, replaced the hideous front door with this beautiful door then God called Dan to be the pastor so we moved three doors down into the parsonage and sold this house to Cwiff & Beppa. I love that the door reminds us of what is possible. I love that we always think of the incredible amount of work that went into that house and then the satisfaction of seeing what we accomplished. I love that the door looks really cool with the light from the foyer or dining room behind it and it just sparkles. I love that the door is the front of a house that holds such history and memories for us but now holds another family we love.
I love those bridges. I love living next to the might Mississippi river. I love that I travel on these bridges numerous times most every day. I love that Jonah knows the bridges are over the "Sippi" river and tells us every time. I love that he says "GO VERY SLOW" when we are on the bridge. I love that when church members realize we are next to them on the bridge, they always slow down because of Dan's sermons on speeding. I love that people from here always tell us their memories of when there was just one bridge.
I love the Vidalia Riverwalk. I love that only the Mississippi River separates us from Historic Natchez. I love that at night, you can see all the lights on the bluff in Natchez. I love that the Riverfront is a great, safe place to walk anytime of day. I love that we used to take Max there and everyone would stop to pet him. I love that Clare and Tammy would come and get him to walk him right after Jonah was born. I don't love that we almost got sued because that crazy dog bit someone on the Riverwalk a few days after Jonah was born. I think that was the last time he was ever there. I love that the Riverwalk is a great example of all the good things about Vidalia.
I love First Baptist Church, Vidalia. I love what this body of believers has meant in my life over the past 7 years. I love that when their committee called us in Erlanger, KY back in March of 2002, that we knew after that first phone call that we would plant our lives here. I love that the building you see was completed back in May and is such a testimony to our great God. I love that we are considered family here. I love that my husband has had the opportunity to lead these people to the throne of God in worship and to preach God's word over the last 7 years. I love that when we pull up and Jonah sees what you see in the picture above, he says "I get to go to church?" I love that Dan got to put the cross on top of the steeple. I love that some of my favorite people in the world worship with us on a weekly basis. I love that we have gotten to lead people to faith in Christ on this property. I love that God is moving and working and that "greater things are yet to come!"
I love this office complex at FBC. I love that it used to be a decrepit building that served no purpose. I love that the people of this church put lots of sweat and work into this place and it now serves as a beautiful building to conduct the business of our church. I love that when we pull into the parking lot that Jonah says "We are at the red church where daddy is!" I love that Dan's office was designed by him and fits him perfectly. I love that he wrote scripture on the concrete before they put his carpet in so he stands on scripture every day.
I love the Multipurpose building at FBCV. I love it because the gym reminds me of the shelter we had for Hurricane Katrina. I loved watching God's people serve hurting people. I love stepping outside of my comfort zone to meet people at their deepest need. I love sitting on an air mattress and crying with people who just saw their destroyed home on CNN. I love that our church became the hands and feet of Jesus to 120 people for 3 weeks. I love that we met in there for eight months while our sanctuary was renovated. I loved that people endured hard chairs, bad sound systems, terrible lighting and crowded seats so they would not miss what God was doing in our church. I love that the doors to the right lead to the nursery. I love that my little boy is loved and cared for in those rooms. I love that he has spent several hours for the last three years on that hallway and has learned so much about Jesus because of people who sacrifice their time for him.
I love that little breezeway because of the people who stand there. I love that when I pull up to church on Sunday mornings, Mr. Roy is always there. I love that Jon Betts or Ken Kunkle or Ken Young are usually there too. I love that they have smiles on their faces and the love of Jesus in their hearts. I love that when it is raining, our deacons and greeters stand there with umbrellas and meet us at our cars. I love that they are soaked from head to toe but never complain. I love that they care more about keeping members and visitors dry so they can hear God's word and feel His love on that day. I love that my little boy sees them and runs to them to give hugs.
I love seeing the trailer park next to FBCV. It is a constant reminder of our own mission field. I remember very specifically going there soon after we arrived in Vidalia. We did a survey and I spent over an hour at one house. The lady told me she was an alcoholic and had no need for church. She told me our church people were mean to her. She told me that she didn't like church people. Then, one day, out of the blue, she showed up at our church. This was almost two years ago. Would you believe she came to know Jesus as her personal savior and hasn't missed a service since? She sings in the choir, attends every event at the church and doesn't miss a day of studying God's word! I love that when I pull into our church parking lot and look to the left, I'm reminded that God's grace is so much bigger than anything I can imagine. I'm reminded that someone who had given up on God and on His people can be redeemed by the blood of Jesus. I'm reminded that ANYONE can turn from a life of sin and alcoholism and run to the arms of Jesus. I'm reminded that they just need me to love them and show them who HE is.
I love that Sonny's Pizza is the place that "Jonah" was announced. I told my boss that I had to go to the doctor and swore him to secrecy. I told him I thought I was pregnant but not to tell anyone. My visit lasted a LONG time. So, when I was done, I called to tell him it was true. He assumed that to mean he could tell everyone. So, when Dan & I walked in to meet he and Cathy for lunch, the whole place erupted in applause and cheers. We had planned to wait a couple of months before telling anyone. So, Dan & I both went to separate booths and started calling people to tell them before they heard it on the street. I love that I now go in there with Jonah and he knows how to order exactly what he wants. I love that he always talks to "them deers" on the wall. I love that all the people that work there ask "where Brother Dan?" if he isn't with me.
I love that we know all the people who work at our bank. I love that we opened our account the day after Dan was voted in back in May, 2002 and then received personal notes from different officers welcoming us to town. I love that the people in the drive-thru used to ask where Max was everyday and sent bones home to him. Then, when Jonah came along, those questions became about Jonah. I love that they give him three pieces of gum every time. I love it even more because he doesn't get gum in the car so we have a nice stash of gum for us most of the time. I love that Jonah is in their ads. I love that when you need something, a real person answers the phone rather than an automated system. I love that the President is one of Jonah's favorite people and he doesn't understand that "Cwiff" has a job to do there so he ALWAYS asks to see him when we walk in. I love that if Cliff knows Jonah is there, then his work can usually wait because he needs a hug from his buddy!
I love passing this hospital with Jonah in the car. He ALWAYS says "there is that hospital where I got my eye fixed by Dr. Farmer because I was spinning and fell and hit the coffee table and Dr. Farmer was wearing a red shirt." We always laugh because he remembers that with such specifics. I always tell him that was where he was born and that mommy and daddy fell in love with him on the third floor of that hospital. He is unimpressed with that but I'm not. The people there were wonderful to our family and our labor/delivery experience was fabulous. I love how I'm reminded to be grateful to God for the miracle of Jonah's birth everytime I pass that place. I also love it because of my biweekly scrapbook sessions.
I love so many things about this building. While we have so many happy memories here, this building also holds the room we were in when our doctor told us we would not have children biologically. Then, just a couple of years later, that same doctor rushed into the room to hug me when our pregnancy test came back positive. That doctor cried with me on the day that my daddy died when I was just a few months pregnant. I loved my OB visits there when I was pregnant. Those people became our friends.
Then, after Jonah was born, we went downstairs instead of up. We met Jennifer Russ and entrusted the care of our Jonah to her. We absolutely adore her. She has become my very good friend and Jonah's beloved "Docka Russ!" Besides our church, she is the number one thing we will miss about the Miss-Lou. We love her and are so blessed to have her as our doctor.
I love this Pizza Hut because my little boy LOVES pizza. I love that we used to have lunch there 3-4 times a week sometimes with my boss and his wife because when they asked Jonah what he wanted, he said PIZZA! I love it because they don't like pizza all that much but they went for him. I love that people love him just that much. I love that when I pass that place, I think about marinara sauce all over his chubby little face. I love that we went there the night after Caroline Lee was born and Jonah sat in a high chair like a big boy. He was just four months old but acted like he was 2. I love that one time Dan spilled his salad and it landed on my foot. I was wearing flip-flops and salad dressing covered my foot. I hobbled to the bathroom and put my foot in the sink to wash it. An employee came in and told me I was in the Men's restroom. Oops! I love the memories of that place.
I love the antebellum homes in Natchez. They always remind me of the great qualities of this historic town. I love that some of those homes have really good restaurants. I love that some people get married there and we get to see the homes as the backdrop. I love that I pass them going to and from work and then see them in Southern Living as "must see" travel spots.
I love that my little boy has spent the last two academic years at Jefferson Street Preschool. I don't know what it is about those Methodists but they know how to do preschool. I love that those steps have such memories of two "first" days of school. I love how I think about those days and taking his picture in the exact same spot. I love that I made so many wonderful friends outside of our church because of Jonah being enrolled there. I love that God gave me opportunities to minister to some people and do some things that no one in our church even knows about. I love that I'm "Jonah's mommy" there and that his teachers tell me how great and well rounded he is. I love that because of that place, my child knew every color (including chartruse) and all of his letters and could spell his name and all the colors before he was three years old. I love that his teachers have sent me precious notes over the last week telling me how sad they are that we are moving. I love that they tell me I'm a great mom! I love that THEY love my little guy!
I love the opportunities that my job afforded me. I love what it taught me. I love the relationships I gained from it. I love that when I drive up in the parking lot, Jonah says "Mommy, this is your work and Jimmy's work and it is red!" I love that we have not paid for drycleaning or laundry in 7 years. I love that I allowed myself to do something outside of my comfort zone and ended up being stretched in ways I never dreamed I could be. I love that my boss has treated me like his own child and treats my little boy like his grandchild. I love that the girls in the back that press clothes say "Nicki, yo husband is soooo FINE" after he walks through the plant. Then, they tell me the watch him preach on TV just so they can see him smile and hear him sing. I love that I have learned so much about Accounting, Finance and Marketing because of that place. And, I love that I will arrive in DeLand with all freshly laundered bedding and curtains because of my wonderful "NASTEELAU!"
I love seeing people doing the carriage tours in Natchez. I've never done that tour. I've been behind hundreds of them. I usually was late for work and therefore did not appreciate the slow nature of those tours. But, I love them because the represent Natchez. I have loved living near this historic town and being in the midst of it's downtown area everyday. I love watching little elderly couples climb into the carriages. I love seeing the kids get so excited so the horses. I love hearing my own little boy squeal with delight when he spotted the horses lined up on Canal street every morning.
I love that everytime I pass the First Baptist Church, Natchez sign on Liberty Road, I always think about Dan taking me to Natchez on an all day date just a few months after we started dating. I remember the houses we saw, the places we ate and the fun we had. This was pre-engagement, pre-marriage, pre-seminiary, pre-Jonah, pre- most everything! But, we were happy and in love and completely unaware of how God was orchestrating things to have us plant our lives here for a season of life. This sign leading you in to the back entrance of FBC, Natchez looks different than in did in May of 2001 but it reminds me of God's faithfulness in my own life.
I love that THE SANDBAR reminds of our first visit to Vidalia in April of 2002. We flew to Jackson from Cincinnati and were met at the airport by Gary Nunn and Jason Walsworth. They dropped us off to get freshened up then picked us up for dinner with the committee. Dinner was at The Sandbar. I remember sitting at the table that night with Dan on my left and Debbie Wiggins on my right. I remember feeling like we had known that group of people our entire life. I remember Cliff Merritt ordering Bleu Cheese salad dressing and thinking that was gross. I remember Billie Chandler talking about her husband's latest test results regarding his cancer. (Who knew we would begin to call them MaMaw and PaPaw Chandler!?!?) I remember the exact table we were at. I remember so many things from that evening but most of all, I remember knowing that this would be the group of people we were about to invest our lives in. What a wonderful night that began a wonderful 7 year journey!